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Is the Film Studio Hiring of ex-Mayor Dana Williams Anything More Than a Political Stunt?

In Wednesday’s Park Record, Jay Hamburger reported that former Park City Mayor Dana Williams may be hired by Park City Film Studios as a consultant. According to the article, Williams said he could assist the studio with “the anticipated Chinese presence at the site” or “also aid the music aspects of the film studios.” It seems like National Film Capital, the Chinese firm often spoke of, is more of a financing group than a production group. It’s more likely that Warren Buffet will set up shop at the local Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate office than having a strong, consistent Chinese presence at the film studio. As for music, unless the studio’s target is focused on filming documentaries like the fabulous Sundance Film Festival entry Muscle Shoals, it’s likely that the music component will generally be handled elsewhere.

So, as a consultant, what would Williams really do? Three things come to mind:

  1. Utah has a film problem — at least for getting films filmed here. The amount of incentives the state provides for films is about $6.8MM per year (for all films). That’s not much when other states offer much more and often in the $30MM-$40MM range (each) for big films. There is no way Utah competes with that. Williams perhaps could lobby the State of Utah Legislature to get that changed. That could benefit the studio if the amount is raised. Whether you want your taxes dollars used on that is another matter.
  2. The Film Studio has an image problem.  As you speak with people around town, you’ll be hard pressed to find a lot of support for the studio from regular people living here. Sure, the people on the Park City City Council that supported it in 2012 are excited and a few business owners think it may bring in more people in the summer are hopeful but past that, support for the project is slim. What better way to up public support than bring in Park city’s favorite son. If this was Mayberry, Dana Williams would be our Sheriff Andy Griffith. Need more support from the public? Get Andy Griffith on the KPCW talking it up.
  3. The Film Studio is Dead on Arrival and it’s next life must be planned. Granted, this is a little bit of a leap. However, if the writing is on the wall and the film studio can’t get funding a developer will want to use or sell the land. The best way to ensure the ability to do either is to make sure that the zoning is as flexible for any sort of commercial activity. This is going to take some political finagling. We can hear it now… “Do you want that carcass of a half-finished building in the entry corridor or should we find someone like, Simon Property Group to come in, tear down the structure and build something fitting of Park City like Salt Lake’s City Creek. It would be so convenient for the people living in the new Park City Heights to be able to bike and walk to the location. With Vail coming in, we need this. It will be an upscale Tanger!” In order for that to happen, it will need the Bill Clinton of local politicians to get involved. It appears there may just be one available for hire.

So, is hiring Williams a political stunt in order to woo the people of Park City into looking more favorably on the studio? Does the Film Studio developer want Williams to lobby for him on the hill in SLC to bring in more films? Is the developer playing the long game and looking forward to life after the studio?

Or perhaps it’s all three. Would you rather have a 50 foot tall studio at the location or a Restoration Hardware? At this point, we at the Park Rag aren’t sure.


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